Opening Bell: 12.01.09

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Arming Goldman With Pistols Against Public (Bloomberg)
Alice Schroeder on Goldman employees packing heat: "I just wrote my first reference for a gun permit," said a friend, who told me of swearing to the good character of a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker who applied to the local police for a permit to buy a pistol. The banker had told this friend of mine that senior Goldman people have loaded up on firearms and are now equipped to defend themselves if there is a populist uprising against the bank.
Somali sea gangs lure investors at pirate lair (Reuters)
"Four months ago, during the monsoon rains, we decided to set up this stock exchange. We started with 15 'maritime companies' and now we are hosting 72. Ten of them have so far been successful at hijacking," a wealthy former pirate named Mohammed said. "The shares are open to all and everybody can take part, whether personally at sea or on land by providing cash, weapons or useful materials ... we've made piracy a community activity."
Arrest Imminent In Florida Ponzi Case (Reuters)
Scott Rothstein is expected to be cuffed today.
WaMu The Bank Is Gone, But The Parent Fights On (WSJ)
A federal bankruptcy judge is expected to rule soon on who owns about $4 billion claimed by both J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., which bought the doomed financial institution from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and the Seattle thrift's holding company, Washington Mutual Inc.
SEC Watchdog Eyes Insider Trading Probe (NYT)
Inspector General David Kotz's office said it is looking at a complaint that SEC staff had access to specific evidence that insider trading had occurred prior to staff closing the investigation, and whether the enforcement staff "committed acts of negligence."

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Opening Bell: 04.11.13

J.P. Morgan Takes Goldman's Spot In Corporate-Governance Hot Seat (WSJ) Mr. Dimon's shareholder letter lacked the feisty tone of years past, when he often warned about the unintended consequences of a wave of new regulation of the U.S. banking industry. This year, Mr. Dimon instead said, "I feel terrible we let our regulators down" and pledged to make the firm's compliance with all regulatory obligations a priority. "We are re-prioritizing our major projects and initiatives" and "deploying massive new resources" to the effort, he wrote. The firm is dropping work on a litany of new projects, such as a redesign of its Chase.com web site, so it can focus on the new firm-wide controls, said a person close to the bank. Mr. Dimon also warned that he expects more regulatory slaps in the "coming months." Goldman Deal With Union Lets Blankfein Keep Dual Roles (NYP) CtW Investment Group, an adviser to union pension funds with $250 billion of assets, agreed to withdraw its proxy proposal seeking a split of the chairman and CEO roles after the company agreed to give Goldman’s lead director, James Schiro, new powers such as setting board agendas and writing his own annual letter to shareholders. Fed's Flub Sparks Data Concerns (WSJ) The Fed said Wednesday that a staff member in its congressional liaison office accidentally released minutes of a March 19-20 policy meeting Tuesday afternoon to many of his contacts, including Washington representatives at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Barclays Capital, Wells Fargo & Co., Citigroup Inc. and UBS AG. Also among the recipients: King Street Capital Management, a hedge fund, and Carlyle Group, a private-equity firm. Officials at the Fed didn't notice the mistake until about 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, after which they scrambled to release the information to the wider public, which was done at 9 a.m. A Fed spokesman said: "Every indication is that [the release] was entirely accidental." While there has been no obvious sign of early trading on the Fed's minutes, the flub comes at a delicate moment and raises questions about how the central bank handles sensitive information. Fed officials are currently debating when to begin winding down an $85 billion-a-month bond-buying program, a decision that is likely to have immense market impact. Market participants eagerly await the meeting minutes, which are released every six weeks, for insight into Fed thinking about the program. Plosser pitches his plan for a post-crisis Fed (Reuters) Plosser, an outspoken policy hawk and longtime critic of the bond-buying, said the Fed would be wise to begin swapping maturing longer-term assets with shorter-term ones, aiming to hold only Treasury bonds and not the mortgage bonds it is now buying. Regulators Feeling 'Social' Pressure (WSJ) The SEC issued guidance last year saying a third party's use of the "like" button could be viewed as a testimonial and suggested investment-advisory firms consider requiring preclearance before posting on social-media sites. SEC staff are currently working on additional guidance to provide more clarity about how to use social media without violating advertising rules, but the agency is unlikely to soften its prohibition against advisers using testimonials, according to the person familiar with the matter. An SEC spokesman declined to comment. Carnival Offers Motel 6 Price for Caribbean After Triumph (Bloomberg) Carnival Corp is offering a Caribbean cruise for as little as $38 a night, less than a stay at Motel 6, after an engine fire on the Triumph stranded passengers at sea for several days. A four-night trip on Carnival’s Imagination, leaving Miami on April 22, costs $149 a person, including meals and some beverages, according to the cruise company’s website yesterday. The lowest nightly rate at the budget-priced Motel 6 chain was $39.99, according to an online ad. Carnival, based in Miami, generated headlines worldwide in February after the engine fire on the Triumph left 3,100 passengers at sea for several days with limited food and toilet service. The ship broke loose from its moorings in high winds last week in Mobile, Alabama, where it is being repaired. Cyprus Central Bank Denies Plan to Sell Gold (CNBC) The Central Bank of Cyprus denied that it will sell 400 million euros ($525 million) worth of its gold reserves as part of the conditions to Europe's bailout of the island state. Aliki Stylianou, a spokesperson at the central bank told CNBC on Thursday that there was "no such thing being discussed." Jobless Claims In US Plunged More Than Forecast Last Week (Bloomberg) Jobless claims decreased by 42,000 to 346,000 in the week ended April 6, from a revised 388,000, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 49 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a drop to 360,000. A Labor Department official said no states were estimated and there was nothing unusual in the data. Citadel’s Credit Co-Head Jamey Thompson Quits Hedge Fund (Bloomberg) Thompson became one of the three co-heads of Citadel’s credit group in September, when the hedge fund merged its quantitative credit and convertible-bond teams. He started at Citadel in 2008 as a credit portfolio manager and had previously worked at New York-based hedge fund King Street Capital Management LP. $100,000 worth of burgers stolen in Linden, NJ (MCJ) Capt. James Sarnicki said police responded Tuesday to BMG Logistics, a shipping yard at 720 W. Edgar Road, for a report of a shipping container theft. The owner told police that sometime between 8 p.m. April 8 and 10 a.m. April 9, someone stole a 40-foot-long refrigerated shipping container from the lot containing $100,000 worth of hamburger patties bound for the Netherlands. Detective Frank Leporino said the burgers had been shipped from Kansas City, Mo., and brought to the warehouse and shipping yard before being loaded onto a container Monday. The container was stored in a 2006 trailer with a California license plate 4HR1817. The burger patties were stored in 3,000 cartons. Police have surveillance video footage of the tractor hooked up to the trailer going out of the shipping yard at about 10:33 p.m. Monday.

Opening Bell: 04.22.13

Bill Gross Attacks UK and Euro Zone Austerity (FT) Bill Gross, manager of the world's largest bond fund for Pimco, has launched a stinging attack on efforts by Britain and much of the euro zone to cut debt rapidly with severe austerity measures, warning that such action risks stifling recovery. "The U.K. and almost all of Europe have erred in terms of believing that austerity, fiscal austerity in the short term, is the way to produce real growth. It is not," Mr Gross told the Financial Times. "You've got to spend money." Argentina's New Debt Offer Rejected by Holdout Creditors (WSJ) Holdout creditors on Friday rejected Argentina's proposal to pay them about 20 cents on every U.S. dollar of bonds they own, leaving a U.S. appeals court to decide how to enforce a ruling that may push Argentina into a new default. "Not only are the details of Argentina's proposal unacceptable and unresponsive; Argentina fails even to provide this court with meaningful 'assurances' that it will actually comply with its own proposal," said Theodore Olson, a lawyer for the holdouts, in a brief filed Friday. Argentina's own math values the offer at $210 million, less than 15% of the $1.47 billion that holdouts were owed on their defaulted bonds as of March 1, according to the brief. Hedge Fund Stars Suit Up At Yankee Stadium To Attract Investors (NYP) Hedge-fund mogul Stevie Cohen will be pitching at Yankee Stadium tomorrow. No, the 56-year-old billionaire is not suiting up for the Bronx Bombers — but he will be hoping the magic of the House that Ruth Built will yield some investment cash. Cohen, whose SAC Capital faces a loss of $1.7 billion from investors who want out of his $15 billion hedge fund, is one of about 70 hedge fund managers who’ll be at the Stadium tomorrow making a pitch to prospective new investors at a day-long event sponsored by Goldman Sachs. Singapore Will Replace Switzerland As Wealth Capital (CNBC) Switzerland has $2.8 trillion in assets under management, with $2.1 trillion of that coming from offshore wealth. Switzerland accounts for 34 percent of the $8.15 trillion in total global wealth. Yet the report said Singapore could overtake Switzerland in offshore assets under management by 2020. It said Swiss offshore assets could fall below $2 trillion by 2016, while Singapore's assets could more than quadruple by then. Somali Banking Starts From Ground Up (WSJ) Abdusalam Omer is a central bank governor without much to govern. The Central Bank of Somalia doesn't hold reserves in the country's currency, the shilling. There are no functioning commercial banks in the strife-torn country for it to regulate. The 75-strong staff that still turns up for work after two decades of civil war is a motley crew of money men and handymen. "I don't know why the central bank employs painters," says the 58-year-old who was named the country's top banker in January. Eventbrite Funding Slows Its IPO Chase (WSJ) Eventbrite Inc., an event ticketing company, has raised $60 million from two investors, making it the latest example of a startup to raise significant private late-stage funding that puts off an initial public offering. San Francisco-based Eventbrite had sparked expectations of an imminent IPO when it said earlier this month that it hired a chief financial officer, Mark Rubash, who previously worked at Yahoo Inc. and eBay Inc. Instead, it joins a growing number of companies that have found plentiful funding in the private markets rather than going public at an early stage. The company has raised the new cash from mutual-fund firm T. Rowe Price Group Inc. and Tiger Global Management LLC, an investment-management firm, said Kevin Hartz, co-founder and chief executive. That brings its total private fundraising to some $135 million since its inception in 2006. "This gives us flexibility in setting the timeline for a later IPO, on our schedule," said Mr. Hartz. Deutsche Bank Margin Call on Vik Sparks $2.5 Billion Dispute (Bloomberg) Alexander Vik went to Deutsche Bank AG’s London office in October 2008 to meet account managers who congratulated the Norwegian entrepreneur on how well his Sebastian Holdings Inc. investment fund was doing. Within a month, as global markets tumbled into crisis, the same bankers demanded about $530 million against the fund’s currency bets and began to liquidate its positions. Vik, 58, will argue at a 12-week trial starting in London today that the bank’s actions resulted in losses and missed profits totaling about $2.5 billion. A judge will have to decide whether Sebastian’s calculation of lost trading gains is accurate, said John Day, a lawyer at London-based litigation firm DaySparkes. Zimbabwe Prepares Law to Seize Company Stakes Without Paying (Bloomberg) Zimbabwe’s government is preparing a law that would allow it to seize controlling stakes in companies without compensation, according to a draft of the legislation obtained by Bloomberg News. The law would be an amendment to a 2007 act that compels foreign and white-owned companies such as Rio Tinto Group, Sinosteel Corp. and Impala Platinum Holding Ltd. to sell or cede 51 percent of their shares to black nationalsor state-approved agencies.

Opening Bell: 06.25.12

Soros Pushes EU To Start Joint Debt Fund Or Risk Summit Fiasco (Bloomberg) “There is a disagreement on the fiscal side,” Soros, 81, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Francine Lacqua at his home in London. “Unless that is resolved in the next three days, then I am afraid the summit could turn out to be a fiasco. That could actually be fatal.” Greece Seen Blocked From Debt Markets Until 2017 (Bloomberg) “The challenges facing Greece remain extremely large,” said Jamie Searle, a fixed-income strategist at Citigroup Inc. in London. “It will be a long while before they can get back to the market.” Spain Asks For Help (WSJ) The Spanish government has made its formal request for European Union aid to help finance the cleanup of its ailing banking industry, the finance ministry said in a statement Monday. Nasdaq: 'Arrogance' Contributed To IPO Flop (WSJ) Chief Executive Robert Greifeld said Sunday that "arrogance" and "overconfidence" among Nasdaq staffers contributed to problems with Facebook's initial public offering last month. Addressing a conference of corporate directors at Stanford University's Law School, Mr. Greifeld said Nasdaq had tested its systems extensively before the May 18 IPO, simulating higher trading volumes than actually occurred. But he said Nasdaq was unprepared for increasing numbers of canceled orders in the hours leading up to Facebook's debut. S&P's Method's Under SEC's Lens (WSJ) The scrutiny relates to S&P's decision in July 2011 to pull its ratings on a new $1.5 billion commercial-mortgage-backed security, or CMBS, issued by Goldman Sachs and Citigroup The unusual step sent the commercial mortgage securities market into turmoil and scuttled the deal for weeks, angering investors and issuers. The SEC's inquiry is part of its annual review of S&P and other credit-rating firms. But in S&P's case regulators are looking at whether it used more lenient standards to rate new CMBS than it used on outstanding deals, the current and former employees say. JPMorgan Unit Shifts Operations (WSJ) The CIO, which is charged with investing a portfolio valued at $370 billion, equivalent to about 17% of J.P. Morgan's $2.2 trillion in assets, will avoid trying to protect the bank using infrequently traded derivatives, according to people close to the matter. The CIO unit also will avoid private-equity investments. But those changes will be driven by a judgment that certain losing strategies were poorly conceived and hedged, not by a decision to foreclose investment options. CNBC'S Guy Adami Takes On The Ironman Triathlon (NYT) But he says none of those experiences compare with the rush he felt on a sun-dappled Sunday morning in late May in Red Bank, N.J., when he crossed the finish line of his first triathlon. It was at a so-called sprint distance — a half-mile swim, followed by a 13-mile bike ride and then a 3.2-mile run — which Mr. Adami, 48, completed in just under two hours, finishing 116th in a field of 160. Just signing up for that race was no small accomplishment for Mr. Adami, who, not six months earlier, had been leading the sedentary existence of a trader and carrying a flabby 235 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame. But as a volunteer placed a medal around his neck, Mr. Adami had little time to celebrate. A far more daunting challenge loomed: on Aug. 11, he will join nearly 3,000 other weekendwarriors as they seek to endure, and complete, the first Ironman-distance triathlon to be staged in the New York metropolitan region. To put the magnitude of that 140.6-mile race in perspective, consider this. It will begin at 7 a.m. with a 2.4-mile swim in the Hudson River — the open-water equivalent of about 170 lengths in a 25-yard swimming pool, or nearly five times the distance Mr. Adami completed in that New Jersey sprint. Those participants who manage to complete that swim in 2 hours 20 minutes or less will move on to the bicycle portion — 112 miles in two loops along the deceptively hilly Palisades Interstate Parkway, or the rough equivalent of pedaling from Manhattan to Hartford. Riders who finish the bike ride before 5:30 p.m. — or 10 ½ hours after their odyssey begins — will embark on a 26.2-mile marathon, which will begin in Palisades Interstate Park on the New Jersey side of the Hudson and continue for several loops before concluding with a brisk run (or perhaps a staggering walk, which the rules permit) across the George Washington Bridge and into Riverside Park on the West Side of Manhattan. IPO Market Gets First Post-Facebook Test (WSJ) In the dry spell since the disappointing May 18 debut of the social-network company, plenty of IPOs have been pulled. And for a time it appeared there would be no attempt to test the waters in June. But a quartet of offerings is lined up for the final week of the month: cloud-based computer-services provider ServiceNow Inc., energy partnership EQT Midstream Partners LP; software firm Exa Corp., and biopharmaceutical firm Tesaro Inc. Judge likens Goldman logic to Orwell’s ‘1984’ (NYP) A federal judge blasted Goldman Sachs for its “Orwellian” defense against a lawsuit accusing it of misleading investors in the sale of risky securities, comparing the firm’s logic to the George Orwell classic “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” “Words such as ‘honesty,’ ‘integrity,’ and ‘fair dealing’ apparently do not mean what they say,” Manhattan federal court Judge Paul Crotty said in a 27-page opinion allowing the shareholder suit to proceed against the bank. The harsh words from Crotty relate to allegations that Goldman concealed conflicts of interest in several CDO transactions that were part of the subprime meltdown. $400M+ Tab For Madoff Swindler Ezra Merkin (NYP) The agreement will allow some of Merkin’s clients to recover as much as 40 percent of what they lost, with investors who had been kept in the dark recovering the most. Basel Bank Official Warns On Stimulus Measures (WSJ) Central banks currently find themselves "caught in the middle," Jaime Caruana said, "forced to be the policy makers of last resort." They are providing monetary stimulus on a "massive scale," supplying liquidity to banks unable to fund themselves in markets and easing government financing burdens by keeping interest rates low, said Mr. Caruana, speaking in Basel, Switzerland, at the annual general meeting of the BIS, a consortium of the world's central banks. "These emergency measures could have undesirable side effects if continued for too long," he said. "A worry is that monetary policy would be pressured to do still more because not enough action has been taken in other areas." Rare giant tortoise Lonesome George dies in Galapagos Islands (NYDN) The giant tortoise named Lonesome George — the last of the Pinta Island subspecies and an enduring icon of the Galapagos — died Sunday, the Galapagos National Park said in a statement. George, who was discovered in 1972 in the islands that inspired Charles Darwin’s ideas of evolution, was about 100 years old. Galapagos tortoises have been known to live for 200 years. “This morning the park ranger in charge of looking after the tortoises found Lonesome George, his body was motionless,” park director Edwin Naula told Reuters. “His life cycle came to an end.” Since 1993, various mates had been provided for Lonesome George in failed attempts to keep his subspecies alive. Two females of a different subspecies managed to lay eggs, but they were infertile. George was actually named after American actor George Gobel, a TV star of the 1950s, who called himself “Lonesome George.”